After weeks of pushback, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has pledged his support for an inter-municipal business licence for ride-hailing, the details of which were released Friday.
But McCallum wants to see the province’s independent Passenger Transportation Board change the rules for taxi companies.
“By having a single ride-hailing business licence for the region, this will eliminate duplication, confusion, and waste of time and money for both those issuing and seeking a licence,” McCallum said.
“I have not budged from my position that a level playing field must be in place for ride-hailing and taxi companies to compete in. My fight is about ensuring fair competition in a highly regulated industry.”
McCallum says the Passenger Transportation Board must now make changes to improve things for taxi companies and drivers. He is asking for a review of taxi boundaries, fleet caps, insurance requirements, and ensuring ride-hailing vehicles provide accessible services for all customers.
The Mayors’ Council is now asking to meet with the province and the Passenger Transportation Board to understand how progress on improving conditions for the taxi industry can be made.
The provincial government continues to have conversations with the taxi industry about how to utilize a 30-per-cent ride accessibility fee. A new insurance package for taxi drivers rolled out by the government is still being reviewed.
The proposed regional business licence will ensure ride-hailing companies can legally operate in all Metro Vancouver jurisdictions.
The City of Surrey has been giving out $500 fines for Uber drivers who were operating without a licence.
All the municipalities must now vote on the regional licence. The proposal calls for ride-hailing companies to pay a $155 annual per-company fee and an additional $150 charge per vehicle.
The per-vehicle fee will be waived for wheelchair accessible vehicles; zero-emission vehicles will pay a $30 fee.
“The development of the inter-municipal business licence has demonstrated how our region can work collaboratively together,” Mayors’ Council Chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said.
“The framework that has been developed gives cities a say in managing our roadways while keeping the application process simple and reasonable. This industry has the potential to improve transportation options in our region, if we take steps to properly manage it.”
Ride-hailing vehicles have different rules than taxi companies when it comes to municipalities. Taxi companies can only pick up in the municipality where they are registered and pay a business licence fee. Ride-hailing companies can pick up in any jurisdiction as designed by provincial law.
“Trips don’t always start and end within the same community,” Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott said.
“The IMBL will create streamlined processes and rules to support reliable service across the Lower Mainland and the Sea to Sky region. It’s a common-sense approach that will provide us the data we need to make sure this type of transportation service works for citizens and local government.”
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West committed to bringing the regional licence framework up for a vote at the next council meeting in early February, and urged all other municipalities to do the same.
“It was the only thing that made sense,” he told CKNW’s Lynda Steele.
“The idea that we were going to have UBER and Lyft or other ridehailing companies paying 21 different fees, for 21 municipalities, with 21 different rules was just ridiculous.”
Other mayors like Burnaby’s Mike Hurley said they would also move quickly towards addressing the new licence at their own councils.
Lyft’s public policy manager for western Canada Sophia Cote said in a statement the company was pleased with the agreement reached by the Mayors’ Council.
“We are optimistic that this draft bylaw will allow us to offer riders and drivers a more seamless transportation experience that reflects how people travel within the region,” Cote said.
Lyft has been careful not to ruffle feathers among municipalities who had not issued ride-hailing business licences, only operating in parts of licenced cities like Vancouver and Richmond.
—With files from Erin Ubels